Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Cellist Of Sarajevo - Steven Galloway



My timing was off as to the reading and reviewing of this novel. Had I finished it the week of July 20th, my review would have coincided with this headline:


Serb Fugitive Captured At Last

“…former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic…captured and arrested in Belgrade...has been wanted for war crimes including genocide since 1995, when he was held responsible for the shooting of hundreds of Bosnian civilians from the hills above the Bosnian capital during the 1992-1995 siege of Sarajevo…”


The Cellist of Sarajevo is a powerful haunting novel about that siege. To illustrate the undaunted spirit and courage of those who endured the siege, Galloway makes use of the true story of cellist Vedran Smailović who played Albinoni's Adagio for 22 days to honour 22 victims killed by a mortar while waiting in line for bread in Sarajevo in 1992.

To me, the cellist’s magnificent gesture is not only one of bearing witness but is also a cry from the human soul – You can destroy everything I hold dear, but you cannot take away my music – my very essence, my spirit.

And while this historical event plays a pivotal role in the book, there are other characters whose lives demonstrate the courage and strength required to survive amidst the destruction and ruin of a city and a way of life they once knew.

Worn down to the very essentialness of their being, they carry on despite the chaos, fear and horror. They come to the realization (as does the reader) that the evil of war need not triumph over the hope and spirit of the individual.

“He will behave now as he hopes everyone will someday behave. Because civilization isn’t a thing that you build and then there it is, you have it forever. It needs to be built constantly, recreated daily. It vanishes far more quickly than he ever would have thought possible. And if he wishes to live, he must do what he can to prevent the world he wants to live in from fading away. As long as there’s war, life is a preventative measure.” (excerpt page 248)

There’s a great risk (if indeed not a fact) that we can become inured to the barrage of newspaper headlines regarding war, siege, strife, famine and hardship in the world.

And when this happens, I’m a firm believer in the ability of fiction to step in and aid us in achieving some measure of understanding and comprehension as to what humanity endures.

With this heartbreaking but inspiring story, Steven Galloway shows how survival is possible in a city under siege – not in a physical sense (because survival in that sense is not a given) but in terms of the human spirit.

Excellent read – highly recommended.

14 comments:

Cheri @ Blog This Mom! said...

Thanks for sharing this. I love your book reviews.

Sherry said...

To quote you, "worn down to the very essentialness of their being" -- I am reminded that this happens to us all in some form of other...sometimes by fate, sometimes by circumstance, sometimes by those who have professed to love us until death do us part..and it reminds me that no matter what others try to do to us, they can never, ever shake or take our soul.

Beth said...

cheri:
Such a nice thing to say!

sherry:
Thank you, my friend.
(Your words mean a lot to me.)

She said...

There you go again seducing me with your book reviews!!! Thank God I'm in TWO books groups and can make suggestions to both!

I agree with Sherry. NO ONE can ever take your soul, and you are a very soulful person!

Love. Love. and More Love.

Patti said...

I will put this on my library list. And read it right after Emma.

Anonymous said...

Interesting how art emulates life. Worn down does NOT mean defeated (as we well know). Hard as nails is how I see you when your back is against a wall!

Eileen said...

So excited to see another great book review. Love, survival is in the human spirit...love everything about the way this book sounds. Amazon, here I come again. Everyone you have ever suggested has been great. Really!
Thank you.

VE said...

I demand the right to comment on your "Busy for Awhile post"!!! I don't know what I would say...but I demand it!!!

Princess Pointful said...

This is just a comment on the post above-- wishing you much strength in the days to follow.

PrincessB said...

Wow. You can seriously write book reviews. I'm getting this book this week.

MyUtopia said...

My mom was reading this, this weekend.

She said...

I agree with Ve and Princess Pointful. If we can't reach out to you here (I mean, right up there on today's post), we'll have to do it in other, creative ways! : )

Sending you lots of love and hugs and prayers.

oreneta said...

See you disabled comments, but....well, good luck. Thinking of you. {{{{[hugs}}}}

Attila The Mom said...

I'm in awe of all the high-brow books you read. Me? I just want to read books where people get killed when toilet-bowl ice dropped from planes bops them on the head and it turns out it was really the butler who flushed it out.